Senators urge implementation of safety regs for bus industry
Following deadly tour bus crashes that claimed dozens of lives in New York, Virginia and Washington state this year, a group of six senators wrote to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood calling for swift implementation of safety standards aimed at preventing driver fatigue.
“The pattern of enforcement by DOT has been uneven, inconsistent and ineffective,” the senators wrote. “These crashes indicate the urgency in addressing these critical safety deficiencies—improving occupant protection with currently available vehicle safety technology as well as upgrading driver and operator oversight and regulations. The failure of a driver and company to operate safely does not need to result in occupant deaths and injuries.
The letter, signed by U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Jim Webb (D-Va.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) urges the DOT to accelerate efforts to promptly remove unsafe motorcoach carriers from our roads, ensure driver preparedness, and protect passenger safety.
Driver fatigue is the root cause of 37 percent of all accidents investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board. Preliminary reports indicate that last week’s Sky Express bus crash in Virginia was caused by two key factors: driver fatigue, and the Department of Transportation’s decision to give this clearly unsafe carrier a last minute reprieve from closure despite a pattern of safety failures and a determination that the carrier’s safety record is unsatisfactory.
Brown is the lead sponsor of the bipartisan Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act, comprehensive tour bus safety legislation aimed at reducing the number of tour bus crashes and related fatalities and injuries. Brown first introduced the legislation – which was passed unanimously by a key Senate panel last month and awaits final passage by the full Senate – following a 2007 crash of a tour bus carrying 33 Bluffton University baseball players that claimed seven lives. Brown’s bill, which he introduced alongside Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) would also address driver safety standards. The bill would increase and expand safety requirements for motorcoach drivers and companies. It would ensure that new companies are operating by the book and that drivers maintain a valid commercial driver’s license and would establish new minimum requirements for drivers including more classroom and behind the wheel training. It would also give the DOT new authority to deny, suspend or revoke operator registration, ensure that the carrier complies with hour of service rules, and implement safety management programs to ensure that vehicles are running properly. The bill would ensure periodic safety reviews of motorcoach operators.